Treasure of the fashion world, André Leon Talley was impossible to ignore
You couldn’t miss André Leon Talley.
Six foot six. Decked out in gorgeous capes and caftans, classic tailored suits, fur coats and album-sized sunglasses. The legendary fashion editor died suddenly and unexpectedly at 73, apparently from a heart attack.
“Andrew was hard to ignore” says Karen Grigsby Bates, from NPR’s Codeswitch podcast. “He was tall and tall with a big voice.”
This voice resonated with the authority of fashion from an early age. Raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina, in the 1950s, Talley partly escaped the vicious racial politics of the time by immersing himself in copies of Vogue at the local public library. He attended Brown University on a scholarship, majored in French literature and immediately afterward apprenticed with former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland at the Met’s Costume Institute in 1974.
From there, Talley moved into the hot center of the fashion universe: he worked for Interview Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily and of course Vogue, where he was a star editorial mainstay for decades, from 1983. But being the only black person on the mastheads and front row of shows had a psychic impact, which he discussed in his two memoirs, the last of which came out in 2017.
“Fashion doesn’t take care of its people” Talley told The New York Times in 2018. “No one will take care of me, except that I will take care of myself.”
But Talley took care of the others. As a judge on America’s Next Top Model, he was sharp and insightful, never cruel. He campaigned for more black and diverse representation in fashion, from celebrities gracing the covers of Vogue to designers who dressed his models.
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